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Ignore current human rights violations at your own peril

Human rights activists picket as part of the commemoration of 16 Days of Gender Based Violence along Kenyatta avenue, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Today, lest you had forgotten, is International Human Rights Day (IHRD), the date when the global community commemorates the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. Franklin D Roosevelt is usually accredited as the inspiration and driving force for the Declaration following his famous 1941 speech outlining a vision for a peaceful and just world in which everyone would enjoy four basic freedoms: Freedom of Speech and Worship and Freedom from Want and Fear.

The day is not intended to be a mere commemoration, however, but an opportunity to assess the progress made and address the threats to rights everywhere. Think of the 12 million Uyghurs in China and the Rohingya community in Myanmar persecuted for their faith, not to mention the suffering people of Ukraine under siege from a terrorist named Putin. In neighbouring Ethiopia, half a million people have died of hunger in Tigray in the last two years as a result of a conflict with the government of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Nearer home, today, I will be in Magarini, Malindi with a community who have their own deadly fears with death threats recently made to 16 elders with grey hair, accused of being witches. The other day seven young men in our parish went to an early grave, victims of mob justice. A colleague who discussed the slaughter with the villagers was bluntly told, "why should we take them to the courts when the DPP is dropping charges of murder, corruption and rape against Cabinet Secretaries and elected representatives?" Silence is the only available response to such a charge.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecution has become a laundry for sanitising those closely connected or recently appointed to the Kenya Kwanza regime. Such an exercise could well be described as ‘yellow-washing’ since most of the beneficaries are members of UDA. How appalling that the office of the DPP, entrusted with delivering justice for everyone, has now become the office of impunity and Noordin Haji still remains in office, disgraced but untouched and unapologetic.  

The rule of law is constantly under attack and the Executive are leading the assault. Attorney General Justus Muturi will this week be served with a contempt of court notice for approving distribution of NG-CDF Funds in an advisory that goes against the judgment of the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. President Ruto also broke his election promises and violated the Constitution in failing to honour the two-thirds gender rule when appointing Cabinet Secretaries and Permanent Secretaries. That too led to another court case.

The much anticipated ‘Hustlers Fund’ was launched with a fanfare but no one told Kenyans where the Sh50b came from. It has not been approved by Parliament and even if it were another loan that too would have required Parliamentary approval. What is more worrying still is that the Treasury found the Sh50b from nowhere but have not remitted the October and November Sh60b disbursements to the counties. Newly elected governors should not be reduced to beggars at State House or be obliged to pledge their loyalty to Kenya Kwanza in order to receive the funds to do their job. This latest assault on devolution is  dangerous.

We constantly hear pleas that the Government should be given a chance to settle down and given time to bring about the changes that they promised. That is only fair as they inherited a multitude of challenges. However, there is no justification for breaking the law and there can be no 100 days grace period to do so.  Besides, President Ruto has constantly preached his respect for the rule of law, but his actions betray his words.

These illegal decisions may have gone unnoticed by the public or not raised too much alarm. However, the warning signs are there that Kenya Kwanza is slowly but surely becoming autocratic and trivialising serious matters under the mask of its populism. In effect, Ruto’s actions will result in the likes of Katiba Institute, Law Society of Kenya and KHRC spending long hours in court defending the people’s Constitution. Eternal vigilance is the price of our freedom.